Hocus Pocus - Deaf Diva

Hocus Pocus was my attempt at fostering. I failed. It was the best failure of my life. 

About 6 months prior to Hokey coming into my life, I *almost* put an application in to my local shelter for a little mixed breed dog. I wasn't looking for an agility dog this time; I just wanted a little lap dog, but not a little foo-foo one that might break. Ultimately, I decided not to put the application in. Poppy being so high-maintenance, I just wasn't sure if I could go there. 

Then 6 months later, shortly after I decided to volunteer for the newly formed Mid-Atlantic Jack Rescue, there was a desperate cry for a temporary foster needed over
Hokey Memorial Day weekend 2012
Memorial Day weekend - a little deaf JRT was in the shelter and her time was up. If no one stepped up to take her through the weekend until a permanent foster could take her after the holiday, she could not be saved. Although I had some major reservations - Ollie's reactivity and Poppy's, well, just plain Poppy-ness - I decided I could try to foster for a few short days.

Hocus Pocus ended up in a shelter in Delaware after her owner died. No relatives of the deceased owner would return the calls from the shelter. Because of her deafness, the shelter decided she was unadoptable, but to their credit, they did network her to try and find her a rescue. 
The poor little dog that came to me that fateful day at the end of May 2012 was traumatized, exhausted and sick. I had to keep her in isolation because I wasn't sure if she had something contagious or just a bad case of springtime allergies (she didn't respond to antibiotics, but did respond to allergy meds and this spring, 2013, had similar, but milder, symptoms that again responded to treatment with allergy meds). As soon as I got home I sat with her on the floor, she crawled into my lap and instantly fell asleep. The weekend came and went. I decided it would be best for her to stay at least until she started to feel better. She'd been through enough trauma.
Anyone that has ever pulled a dog from a shelter knows that often it can take a little while for the dog's true personality to come out. As that slowly began to occur with Hokey, I started to really fall in love with her. The other thing that became apparent was that no one had ever bothered to teach her anything.  I don't know whether that was due to her former owner just not bothering or knowing how or there was an incorrect assumption that she couldn't be trained because of her deafness (that's IF her former owner was even aware of it). In some ways, that was a good thing; it can be easier to start with a blank slate rather than trying to fix other people's mistakes.  I always love to stretch myself as a trainer and working with a deaf dog was a fantastic opportunity for me to do just that. Her response was amazing. She just soaked it all up like a sponge. And through our work together we began to really bond. I started to consider adding her to my pack permanently.

Then came the true test that would tell me whether or not this would be feasible: introduction to Ollie and Poppy. Because of Ollie's reactivity, we took it slow over several days and it went fine. Poppy's introduction went quicker and, at first, it seemed like they'd be great friends. But then things started to go awry. Hokey definitely wanted to be the ruler of the dogs in the household. And she would attack Poppy on certain occasions - some invisible line of roughness while they were playing together, Poppy stepping on her or bumping her hard, or deciding Poppy needed to back off whenever there were treats around. At first Poppy would back off and avoid the conflict, but eventually she got sick of it and decided to fight back. Since Poppy is 2 1/2 times bigger and just as rough and scrappy, that never went well for Hokey and I started to reconsider if it was a good idea, for Hokey's sake, for her to permanently join the household. I spent several days struggling with the decision, but ultimately decided I could manage any conflict between the girls and went ahead and adopted her. It turned out to be okay. I became familiar with the triggers and avoided and/or put a stop to any situations that might escalate into a conflict. And despite their jealousy and constant vying for my attention, the girls have seemed to come to a resigned truce and things that may have triggered Hokey to react to Poppy in the past, other than Poppy stepping on her, no longer provoke that response.

Hokey and Ollie shortly after their introduction was completed

Hokey and Poppy have a slightly antagonistic relationship
Now that Hokey was permanently part of the family, I decided to see what I could do with
some agility training. At first, I wasn't too serious about it; it was just an additional way for us to bond through training. Then, in July 2012, Poppy came up with a case of acute lameness, putting her future agility career into question. I decided to take Hokey to fill Poppy's agility lesson slot. From that moment on, she has become my "Agility Dog", while the other two focus on their nose work activities. Although Hokey learns quickly, her training has progressed slower than my previous dogs. That is partly due to the additional challenges to training her deafness presents, but also the fact that I took more time to build a solid foundation with her and that we don't have regular weekly guidance via a class to move her forward at a more rapid pace.  I am learning to enjoy the journey, with its myriad bumps and steps forward and back along the way.
In the meantime, this little deaf dog has captured my heart like no other. I love all my dogs, but feel that the bond I have with Hokey is stronger than any other dog I've ever had. Moreover, she turned out to fill the role of lap dog quite nicely; she would be in my lap 24/7 if that were an option. 

1 comment:

  1. Hokey is so cute and reminds me a lot of my JRT mix, Ruby!